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Wolf Moon

Title: Wolf Moon
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Snape/Lupin
Summary: It can be hard to be a "tame" werewolf... especially when the one person you have to trust to keep you safe, is the one person who hates you. Written for digital_opium for mistletoemagic 2005.




"Lupin."

Remus hesitated, one foot on the stairs. There was a soft sound that might have been a sigh, might have been a whisper of robes, before he turned around. "Severus," he said mildly.

Snape stood glaring at him. His menacing looks had improved since they were in school together; Remus imagined that his current expression would intimidate the hell out of poor little first-year students. But Remus wasn't a first-year, and Snape didn't outrank him the way professors outranked students, and so he simply stood there and waited.

"You wanted something?" he prompted, when Snape didn't seem eager to speak.

"I wanted--" A trio of students, Ravenclaws from the looks of it, hurried chattering by them. Snape snapped his mouth shut, looking sourly at them, and waited until they had passed. He stepped closer to Remus, his voice barely above a rumble. "I wanted to warn you."

Remus raised his eyebrows. "I see," he said, trying not to sound too baffled. "Am I in danger?"

"That depends," Snape said icily, "on what you do. I will be watching you."

"Ah," Remus said.

"I know what you are," Severus said, voice soft and full of threat. "Remember that."

Remus wanted to laugh. "I could hardly forget," he said mildly. "But it's rather a moot point, isn't it, since I believe Dumbledore informed all the teachers as to the... situation... and," he added pointedly, "swore you to silence."

Snape's eyes narrowed; he was distinctly unamused. "I also know *who* you are."

"Ah," Remus said again, and tried to keep his mouth from twitching in a smile. "Should I be impressed?"

Snape glowered. "Don't play stupid," he snapped. "It isn't particularly believable."

"All right," Remus agreed. The feast had left him warm, comfortable, and full; it was too pleasant a feeling to be in any way shaken by Snape's perpetual bad mood.

"I have... informed the Headmaster of my... opinion... regarding your being here." His words were heavy with irony, and the long deliberate pauses told Remus very clearly that Snape actually wanted to say something quite different. "Unfortunately, he is as soft-hearted as ever, and..." Snape sneered. "...*trusts* you, God only knows why. I don't. I never will."

"I will keep that in mind," Remus said with a smile. "Tell me, does this distrust of yours extend to the potion we spoke of?"

"No," Snape said, looking like the admission pained him.

"Good. For that, I am in your debt. Good night, Severus." And he made his way up the stairs, aware that he hadn't really answered Snape's question at all. When he reached the landing he glanced back, and Snape, still watching him intently, twitched and spun on one heel, stalking off with his robe flaring behind him.

#

Snape had given him assurances -- about as enthusiastic as his welcome had been, but sincere nonetheless -- about the wolfsbane potion. That he would deliver it on time, and that it would work.

Still, Remus couldn't help worrying that something somewhere would go wrong. It was a familiar anxiety, at least for months when he was around people. If the potion didn't come... or if it didn't work, and he got loose and hurt some of the students... if Harry found out...

"You're being a fool," he told himself softly, once, after about twenty minutes of frantic pacing in his office. "It's the moon talking; you know this." He could feel the pull of the moon as it waxed towards full, a growing lunacy in the back of his head. It always made him uneasy at best.

But Snape did come, in the week before the full moon, bearing a steaming potion familiar both in sight and in extremely horrible taste. It wasn't possible to make the potion tolerable in taste, but Snape's expression, each time he handed the goblet over, seemed to say that he rather enjoyed the way it worked.

Each time, Remus smiled pleasantly, and thanked him, and silently wished the taste was the worst part of the process.

Wolfsbane potion let him keep a human mind, let him be "safe" (more or less) around others, but it didn't take away the other effects of the change. His blood still burned like fire inside him. It felt rather like he had been taken apart and then put ineptly back together, so that bones and muscles and tendons were misaligned, moving in ways they weren't meant to move. Each breath, each movement, sent pain clawing through him like white-hot knives.

Remus no longer howled and screamed, the sort of wild noises that had given the Shrieking Shack its name. Under the control of his human mind, the pain was containable. The only sounds he let himself make were soft whimpers that wouldn't be audible beyond the walls of his office. He tried to sleep, curled up with eyes squeezed shut and tail over his face, but it rarely worked.

The wolfsbane potion kept him safe, but it made the night of the full moon almost unbearably long.

#

October's full moon was called Hunter's Moon. James and Sirius had teased him about that, sometimes, back before things had fallen apart beyond repair. Now, with the wolfsbane potion, he simply found it ironic. Werewolves were predators, hunters, and yet he spent the night locked in a room so that he *wouldn't* hunt.

It made him laugh, and despair, and long for where he could be outside.

#

A day later, as the moon started its slow wane, Severus stopped by Remus' office. With no potion to deliver, he came no farther in than he had to, lurking in the doorway like a shadow. "You look dreadful," he said by way of greeting.

Remus managed a tired smile. Even with the wolfsbane potion -- or possibly because of it, in part -- full moons were an ordeal beyond description, wearing him out to the point where he felt like death warmed over for a week; and the potion itself left him with several days of an almost blinding headache on top. Still, his voice was light as he asked, "Concerned for my welfare, Severus?"

Severus sneered. "Hardly. I was merely making sure the potion worked acceptably."

"As advertised." Remus spread his hands, as though showing himself unarmed and uninjured. "Better, even; you always did have quite a talent for potions. I thank you, by the way, for doing this."

"Dumbledore required me to," Severus replied stiffly, but a brightness to his eyes betrayed his quiet pride in his craft.

"Ah," Remus said, smiling. "And did Dumbledore also require you to check up on me?"

Severus snorted, the nostrils of his long nose flaring with irritation, but he said nothing.

More gently, Remus said, "Thank you, Severus. I am in your debt."

"I hardly did this for you, Lupin." Snape's voice was full of scorn, but Remus couldn't help but think that perhaps it was feigned, his way of teasing. "I couldn't exactly let a werewolf run rampant among the students, could I?"

Then again, Remus thought, this was Snape; teasing wasn't something that seemed even vaguely likely.

"No, of course not," Remus said, straightfaced. "You wouldn't enjoy brewing up potion for half the school."

Snape almost, almost, looked amused.

#

The following month had Snape bringing the wolfsbane potion as promised, but in even more of a foul mood than usual. One of the times he came, Harry was present, and so he restrained his annoyance -- barely -- but the time immediately afterwards, the potion came with a twenty-minute rant about headmasters who were too naively trusting, and about betrayals and foolish stupidity, and on and on. "--And with the recent... antics... of Sirius Black..."

Oh. "Is that what this is about?" A bark of surprised laughter escaped Remus, and he shook his head, incredulous. "You think I helped him get into the castle?"

"I'm not a fool," Snape said. His eyes glittered with something approaching malice. "You helped him with his... pranks... when you were the best of friends--"

Not the best, Remus thought, though he kept it to himself. Sirius always had eyes only for James.

"--and I see no reason why that would have changed."

"There are plenty of reasons. Dumbledore is quite aware of them, I assure you; I would not be here otherwise."

"He may think you're tame; I don't." Snape narrowed his eyes at Remus. "I know your type, Lupin. You don't give up friendships, ever, and you do anything, however foolish, for those friendships."

"Perhaps." Remus shrugged. "But I assure you, I have no interest in helping him, nor of protecting him."

"Ridiculous!" Snape spat at him. "Black was your friend."

"Sirius Black betrayed me," Remus said tiredly, "and killed three of my friends. Do you honestly think I have any interest in seeing Harry Potter follow his parents' path?"

"You're a fool if you expect me to believe you."

Remus tilted his head, regarding Snape. "All right," he said quietly. "Is there anything I can do to convince you?"

"Kiss me." Snape looked almost immediately like he had swallowed something unpleasant; Remus wondered whether the words had slipped out. He stepped closer, one hand clamped to Remus' arm, thin fingers digging sharply in. "I know the way you looked at Black," he snarled in a low intense voice. "The way you wanted him. Something like that, it doesn't go away; if you had any doubts to his guilt, let alone if you were helping him, you would be saving yourself for him." Snape's eyes glittered dangerously. "You always were disgustingly honorable, Remus, and a terrible liar. You wouldn't be able to get involved with someone else if you still had Black."

"Interesting logic," Remus said neutrally. "Are you suggesting we, ah, 'get involved'?"

"I'm suggesting," Snape replied in a chilled voice, "that you are a danger to this school and to everyone in it."

Remus just smiled at him. "That's a wonderful way to get my interest, Severus, I commend you." There was deliberately no irony in his voice, but there was mild irony in the intent, and Snape's gaze sharpened. Remus kept the smile peaceful, unthreatening.

"Is that your answer, then?"

"I would rather not discuss this until after the full moon," Remus carefully non-answered. "If you will forgive me, I--" His mouth twitched in a smile. "I have a headache."

Snape snarled wordlessly and stalked off.

#

"I hear you assigned the children essays on werewolves." Remus raised his eyebrows at a scowling Snape. "That's hardly subtle."

"Don't worry," the other man responded scathingly, "the children are all too blind and stupid to actually apply what they claim to have learned."

"You're underestimating them," Remus murmured. His head was throbbing still, a strong echo of the change he had just finished.

Snape gave him an impatient look. "Hardly. Is that why you asked for me?"

"Possibly." Remus held up a small flask made of faceted blue glass, filled with a dark liquid. "This was delivered to me this morning. The note that came with it -- unsigned, I might add -- was from someone who knew of my, ah, condition, and knew of the effects." He handed it to Snape, who didn't even glance at it. "Tell me, would any of the students have been able to do this?"

Snape shrugged. "Miss Granger, perhaps," he said with a sour expression, "though I would be surprised if she did this rather than... ah, reporting you to the headmaster. But I doubt it. You think it was one of the students?"

"None of our peers," Remus said mildly, "would have any reason to send it anonymously. Can you tell if it's safe?"

"You expect students to poison you?" Snape said with incredulous laughter. Still, he uncorked the vial and sniffed at it, then dribbled a small amount onto his finger to taste it.

"Intentionally, no." Remus leaned back in his chair. "Then again, not everyone has your skill with potions."

Snape's eyes narrowed. He re-corked the flask and tossed it back, as casually as though it would bounce on the floor if dropped rather than shatter. "As far as I can tell," Snape said, "it will mainly help with your headache, and will not be harmful."

Remus looked at Snape in mild puzzlement. "You knew I had a headache?"

"Please," he scoffed. "First of all, unlike most people, I am capable of observing. Secondly, do you honestly you expect me to give someone a potion without knowing its effects?"

Remus opened his mouth, closed it, and looked down at the flask. "Most people wouldn't," he said softly.

"I'm not most people."

"No, you aren't." With a shrug, Remus downed the contents of the flask. It had a vaguely minty taste. "Again," he said gravely, "I thank you."

Snape sniffed.

#

The full moon in December was -- at least according to the old battered Farmer's Almanac he had owned since childhood -- known sometimes as Long Nights Moon. Midwinter brought the longest nights of the year; being a werewolf made them a thousand times longer.

It had been tolerable, Remus thought, when he'd had friends to run with, James on one side and Sirius on the other and sometimes Peter balancing on one of their furry heads or backs. But now, alone, it dragged on forever.

Remus, curled on the floor in werewolf form, didn't look up as the door clicked open. He was as comfortable as he was going to get, in this position, and moving would trigger more problems, more pain. His office was magically locked, and the only people who could enter were Dumbledore and the other teachers, all of whom knew of his condition. No students would be stumbling in on him to be frightened or confused or angry or violent.

His visitor didn't speak. There was a moment's heavy silence, and then the rustling of robes. Remus pricked his ears almost without conscious thought, following the movement as his visitor came closer and settled down beside him.

A cool, gentle hand touched Remus' neck, burying long fingers in the ruff of fur. There was a moment where neither of them moved; then the hand stroked down, following the lines of coarse fur. It lifted, returned to the back of Remus' head, stroked down again.

Under the soothing, regular touch, Remus could feel himself beginning to relax. The wolf-pains were still there, but duller, more distant. Something he could halfway forget. He thumped his tufted tail against the floor once in a sleepy gesture of thanks.

There was the soft whisper of a laugh. The hand stroked down one of Remus' forelegs, ending at the paw, holding it as though he were clasping a human hand. It meant there was flesh within easy range of Remus' mouth; dangerous, he thought, with a werewolf, but he just gave the hand a lick without opening his eyes. He didn't recognize the taste, but then again, he rarely went around licking peoples' hands. At least not in human form.

His visitor shifted, possibly settling into a more comfortable position, and then resumed the slow gentle strokes down Remus' back and neck. It wasn't quite enough to get Remus fully asleep, but he drowsed; it was infinitely more restful than his full-moon nights had been in ages.

Dawn came, and with it the change back into human form. His body twisted, split, tore apart; his skin felt like sandpaper on raw flesh, his blood like liquid fire. The wolfsbane potion made the change between forms several times more painful. For most of the month that was a welcome trade-off, pain exchanged for the safety of others, but the actual moment of change always felt like something he would never survive.

Human again, Remus pushed against the floor with clawed hands, trying to sit up, trying to do something, anything. He bit his lip to keep from crying out, and tasted blood. Breath came reluctantly, air like icicles in his lungs. Remus shuddered and then found himself retching, dry painful heaves that felt like his stomach was trying to crawl out his throat.

And then there were hands on his shoulders, supporting him, comforting him. With an almost inaudible sob Remus got control of himself again, though he couldn't stop the shivers that gripped him as firmly as the more welcome support from his unknown visitor.

After a moment the hands vanished from his shoulders; the air of his office felt cold in comparison. Then there was the fuzzy warmth of a blanket, draped around him. Remus generally kept one on hand, during the change, though when he was alone it took him a while to recover enough to get to the blanket.

"Thank you," he whispered, voice more hoarse than usual. He wanted to turn to see who it was, but even moving his head seemed too much of an effort.

There was no verbal response, but his visitor guided him with gentle touches to lie down. One hand stroked down Remus' side and hip, as though he were still the curled-up wolf. The gesture seemed to say, --sleep; I will watch over you.

Exhausted, Remus slept, only barely aware of his visitor leaving in a susurration of swirling robes and quiet stacatto of footsteps.

#

There was another flask delivered the following day, smooth yellow glass the same size as the previous month's anonymous gift, with the same dark liquid inside. This one, though was delivered in person by Snape, who looked only somewhat cranky.

"I thought you might prefer a potion you could trust," he said, with a flash of a smug smile, "rather than one from an unknown and most likely incompetent source."

"Very thoughtful," Remus said warmly. "I do appreciate this." He hesitated, toying with the unopened flask, and then said, "Severus."

One dark eyebrow arched sharply upwards. "You know my name! Astonishing."

Remus ignored the sarcasm. "I never did answer you," he said, "about...
the situation with Sirius Black, and with demonstrating my... current loyalties."

Snape stiffened. "You don't--" he said in a strangled voice, and then he closed his eyes for a minute, as though bracing himself. "I may have been..." He hesitated, obviously searching for words.

"It's all right," Remus said quickly. Snape fell silent, looking slightly relieved that he didn't have to say more, and at the same time irritated at the interruption. "I don't mind."

He stepped forward. Snape watched him with narrow eyes; his hands were up as though to fend Remus off, though he didn't push him away.

"If you're doing this to prove something to me," he started to say. Remus took one of Snape's hands in his own. It was cold to the touch, and Snape jerked his hand back as though burned.

"Must everything be about proof?"

Snape opened his mouth to answer, but a sharp rap at the door interrupted him, startling both of them. "Professor Lupin?" Harry's voice was muffled through the door, but very recognizable nonetheless. Snape scowled, but Remus just smiled at him.

"Another time, perhaps."

Snape's mouth twisted into an ugly expression. It was, Remus thought, the sort of expression of someone who couldn't decide what mood to convey. "Perhaps," he said scathingly, "but it seems unlikely. For now, your... student... is waiting."

He flicked his fingers the door, long thin elegant fingers. Remus had a flash-memory of fingers in wolf-fur, of licking a cool hand as it stroked down his leg.

"Severus." Remus grinned. "Next month, you're welcome to stay past dawn, if you'd like."

Snape twitched. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said icily, after a too-long hesitation.

Harry knocked again at the door. "Professor, are you in there?"

"I must have been mistaken then," Remus said with a smile. He wasn't the only one who was bad at lying, evidently.

"Evidently. Good day, Professor." On Snape's lips, the title sounded almost like an insult.

"Good day, Severus," Remus murmured, as Snape wrenched the door open and swept out, past a bewildered-looking Harry with his hand raised for a third knock.

"What'd he want?" Harry demanded, looking after Snape with a suspicious expression.

"Nothing much," Remus said cheerfully. "He's just been helping me out, that's all."

#

January's full moon was known as Wolf Moon -- another thing James and Sirius had teased him about often enough, even though it was named for true wolves rather than werewolves.

Remus sat alone in his office, feeling the not-yet-risen moon burn inside him, calling to him. It was almost sunset, almost moonrise. Almost time to change.

Time to see what this month would bring him.

Feeling almost peaceful, Remus sat and waited for the Wolf Moon to rise.

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